On-Set Etiquette for Young Actors

On-Set Etiquette for Young Actors

If you’re new to professional acting, the rules and expectations on set may at first seem overwhelming. You don’t want to commit a faux pas and upset any castmates, or worse, the director. You will have parents or guardians there to support and encourage you, but it’s important to remember your own role, and the best way to interact with the other professionals on set.

Despite how challenging it may seem, if you focus on a few simple rules regarding behavior, you’ll likely steer clear of any trouble. Keep the following simple rules of thumb in mind, and you’ll be regarded as a professional, even if it’s your first time on set.

  1. Know who’s in charge. The director is the director, and the cast and crew are not. There is a hierarchy of leadership on professional sets, and you must know where you fit in. This means: Don’t speak out of turn or try to manipulate the set to your specifications. Listen and follow instructions and don’t brush off input from people in leadership roles. Just as you follow your parents’ or guardian’s authority at home, you must do the same for the director on set. Talking back or ignoring what they ask of you could be a one-way ticket to losing your job.

  2. Be kind and considerate of others on set with you. As an actor, you likely won’t be working alone. If you have castmates, it’s important to be a good co-star to them. Have a positive attitude, be friendly and supportive to the cast and crew during down-time, and help others to overcome challenges. If you have the leading role, don’t be rude or treat other castmates as inferior. Everyone’s contribution matters.

  1. Stay where you’re put. If the camera is rolling, don’t run off course, or you risk ruining the take for everyone. Keep away from other people’s workspaces and make sure you do not touch equipment that doesn’t belong to you. In general, keep your hands to yourself, and wait until the director says “cut” before you start freewheeling.

  1. Never be late. This is rule #1 of professionalism. You and everyone else on set have made time commitments. If you are tardy, you’re showing disrespect for your colleagues’ time. And that is never a good reputation for a burgeoning actor.

  2. Free time is free time, and work time is work time. There will be designated areas on set for work and for play—don't let them overlap. Don’t try to network when you’re needed on set, or linger in unauthorized areas when you need to be acting. When you’re not needed on set, don’t get in the way of those who are working. In general, follow instructions of where you’re expected to be and when, and don’t be distracting.

  3. Be gracious when critiqued or praised. On a professional set, chances are that you will be given feedback. You must learn to accept criticism or suggestions. Don’t argue, avoid being confrontational, and don’t do anything to disrupt the set. And remember to be grateful for input, since constructive feedback will help you grow as an actor.

The key to getting along on set is following the same set of rules and etiquette expected in almost any public, work, or group setting. If you are respectful of others, mind your manners, and follow instructions, you’ll have no problem functioning well on a professional set, even if it’s your first time.

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